6. Plant parts – building up an image library
Last year I started a series of posts in which I try explain my digital botanical illustrations – to show how they can (and could be) used and demonstrate, to artists and botanists alike, the benefits of using the digital medium. So now it’s for time to get back to where I left off last year!
As my composite illustrations are largely made up of photographic parts, for each plant I study I take literally hundreds of photographs, but only use a small percentage of them in the final plates. I plan in advance which shots I think will be needed for the illustration I’m working on and also I visualize roughly how each part will fit within the overall composition. I take more photos than necessary at the outset, especially when I think the plant part won’t last, or if I only have the one part to work from and so won’t get another chance. I review the photos taken, keeping only the best for my purposes, and I then I clip out or isolate the selected plant parts from their backgrounds, and file as separate additional images.
Although I plan in advance which shots to take, inevitably there are times when I observe something that I wasn’t expecting, when something is absent from what I have read about, when the angle I selected wasn’t good enough to show a particular feature or even simply when the resulting part doesn’t fit well in the space in the emerging composition. When that is the case, I go back and take yet more photographs. I have just done a rough count, and out of the thousands of photos taken, for my final plates I have used anywhere from 12 in each of my early illustrations, up to 36 in some of my latest ones.
So one of the benefits, for both the botanist and artist, is the considerable collection of pictures that I have built up of the plants I have studied. From this bank of photos all sorts of other images can be readily created of the same taxa at a later date. My collection contains the original photos as well as the ‘cut out’ or isolated versions which I use to make up the final illustrations. The matrix of images above will give you an idea of the range of photographs I take of each plant I study. As you can see, these range from close-up macro shots of diagnostic details to a plant’s habit, and where I can I like to record the plant’s habitat as well, to complete my record of the plant studied. These are available for reproduction.